What We Can Learn From British History
One thing that sets Americans apart from most of the world is our right, acknowledged in — not granted by — the Second Amendment. Our nation was born out of resistance to a government that didn’t represent us; our freedoms had to be fought for. It was a hard fight, too. Mythology aside, the Revolutionary War was a close-run thing — a tough, and sometimes seemingly doomed, struggle against the superpower of the time.
For the British empire it was a sideshow that, at most, 10% of their army was committed to. For us, it was a desperate struggle for liberty. How would that struggle have ended if every gun in America had been in the hands of a redcoat? Our Founding Fathers knew — and they wanted to make sure that never happened.
Some Constitutional Background
There’s probably nothing in US politics that’s been so controversial, for so long, as the Second Amendment. For decades now, the Left has been trying to restrict our freedom to bear arms — that very freedom that the Constitution says shall not be infringed. Arguments about what “well-regulated militia” means, or whether 2A was only meant to apply to flintlock muskets, are totally missing the point, because the words that matter couldn’t be clearer:
“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
There’s nothing in the Second Amendment about magazine capacity, barrel length or how much a weapon looks like an M16 to someone who doesn’t know anything about guns. There’s nothing that says civilians shouldn’t be able to own “military grade weapons” (and by the way, we’re not). In fact, James Madison laid out exactly why the right to bear arms is so important — it’s so if the government ever turns its soldiers against the American people, we’re armed enough that we have at least some chance to resist.
When the Second Amendment was written, ordinary Americans could, and usually did, own the same weapons as soldiers. That was true for most of our history. It only started to change in the 1930s, when some restrictions on machine guns were brought in. Nothing much else changed until the 1986 National Firearms Act, which made it almost impossible to own a machine gun.
Now, though, our right to be armed is under constant attack. We’ve had the federal “assault weapon” ban, California’s limits on magazine capacity and a host of other restrictions at local, state and federal levels. These are all infringements of our rights.
Some of these infringements do make sense, on the surface. Do we want convicted felons being able to buy guns? Of course not — although there’s no reason to suppose a criminal is going to obey the law, is there? If a felon wants a gun he’s going to get one, and so what if the law says he can’t? Let’s face it, if he obeyed laws he wouldn’t have that felony conviction in the first place!
Should We Compromise?
The problem with even the most apparently sensible infringement of 2A rights is that it pushes us onto a slippery slope. Proponents of gun control will never be satisfied. Really, never. If 2A advocates compromise, the concession will be banked and the Left will come back asking for more.
Since 1986, we’ve seen them go from demanding a ban on machine guns — because nobody needs a machine gun, right? — to demanding bans on pistol grips, bayonet lugs and flash hiders. Never mind that a pistol grip makes no difference at all to how deadly a gun is — the M1 Garand doesn’t have one and it killed plenty of people in WW2. That’s not the point. The point is that the most popular rifles in America have pistol grips, and leftists want an excuse to seize those rifles.
Where Will Compromise Lead Us
Want to see where the slippery slope leads? It leads to Britain. The UK isn’t as disarmed as we tend to think it is — there are millions of legally owned guns in British hands — but there are a lot of restrictions. Want a pistol? Tough. Unless you’re a vet or live in Northern Ireland, you can’t have one. Want a semiautomatic centerfire rifle? No chance. Want a pump shotgun that holds more than three rounds? Nope.
How Britain Got Where It Is Now — A Timeline
How Britain got to where it’s at now is a scary story, because it got there by following exactly the same path leftists here want to take us down. In fact, until the 1930s the UK probably had fewer restrictions on guns than the USA!
- The first British gun law was the Pistols Act of 1906, but that was a joke. If you wanted a pistol, you needed a license, which you could get over the counter in two minutes at any post office, and you weren’t allowed to buy a pistol if you were under 18 or drunk. That was it. If you wanted a “military grade” Lee-Enfield rifle — and even today, one of those can put out accurate fire as rapidly as most semi-automatics — you could have one, no questions asked.
- Next came the 1920 Firearms Act. That brought in registration and licensing. Now, if you wanted a gun, you had to apply for a license from the police. The burden of proof was still on the police to say you couldn’t have one though, so what did law-abiding gun owners have to fear?
- Well, how about the 1937 Firearms Act? That turned authority for machine gun licenses over from the police to the War Office, who rejected them all because they were frantically rearming and wanted all the machine guns for themselves. It also deleted self-defense as a valid reason for owning a gun.
- The 1967 Firearms Act reversed the burden of proof. Now you had to convince the police you needed a gun, and shotguns were brought into the licensing scheme for the first time.
- In 1986 semi-automatic centerfire rifles were banned because a Chinese AK clone was used in one incident. Pump and lever action rifles were also banned (but not bolt actions, including the rapid-firing, high capacity Lee-Enfield). In 1997, following another mass shooting, handguns were banned too.
- Now the UK’s gun control zealots are even going after airsoft toys — you need to be in a registered club to buy one, even though they fire tiny plastic BBs at low velocity. They won’t rest until it’s illegal to own anything that even looks like a gun.
“Gun control” advocates don’t just want to ban the “most dangerous” firearms. They’ll say that, but there’s always a “most dangerous” gun among the ones they haven’t banned yet. Machine guns are gone. Now semi-automatics are in their sights. After they’re gone, what’s next? Any bolt or lever action with a magazine, probably, along with handguns. Then anything that fires “military grade” ammo. And then BB guns, airsoft toys and finally water pistols.
It’s no use saying that bump stocks, high-capacity magazines or AR-15s aren’t the right places to take a stand. The place to take a stand is HERE and the time is NOW. Our 2A rights have been infringed enough already, and that slope only gets slipperier the further down you go.